|« Hawks Rout Canucks Again, Bring Series Home||Hawks Win in Overtime to Force Game 7 »|
Bulls Sat Apr 23 2011
Despite a furious Chicago charge in the final minutes, the Indiana Pacers finally held on to a lead to beat the visiting Bulls 89-84 on Saturday and take Game Four of this seven-game series. The win keeps Indiana alive for at least one more game, with Chicago still holding a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series moves back to the United Center on Tuesday.
Indiana won this game with the tough defense they've shown all series (except in the fourth quarters), and for the second game in a row Derrick Rose was largely ineffective. Though he did roll his ankle late in the first quarter, he soon returned (in trademark tough fashion) and still ended up playing 43 minutes but only managed 15 points. Rose shot 6-of-22, with an awful 1-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, as the Pacers forced him to turn to his teammates to the tune of 10 assists. Unfortunately for Chicago, most of them weren't shooting much better, with Carlos Boozer scoring 15 and Luol Deng going 5-14 for 16 points.
The brightest player in red today was Joakim Noah, who played his first great game of the playoffs, and maybe his best since he returned from his thumb injury in February. Noah finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, including a key three-point play in the dying seconds that pulled the Bulls to within one point, after being down 13 just a couple of minutes earlier.
For the Pacers, this game was won by Danny Granger (24 points, 10 rebounds) and Roy Hibbert (16 points, 10 rebounds). Granger has certainly been giving the Bulls trouble this entire series, but today was the first real statement game by Hibbert, as the center also had three blocks to his credit. Yet despite their commanding play from the opening whistle (the Bulls never led), it was a shocking how close they came to blowing yet another big lead.
With just over a minute and a half left and the Pacers in front by 10, the Bulls came back through several Pacers miscues.
Deng cut the lead by three with the basket and a foul, while strong defense led to Boozer getting two points after Hibbert was called for goaltending. This five-point deficit with about 45 seconds left was then cut to three, as Rose stole the ball on Indiana's next possession and took it the length of the floor.
Chicago fouled on the inbound, but the Pacers' Mike Dunleavy was only able to sink one of two free throws, and Chicago scored quickly through Noah's drive and foul shot to make it a one-point game with 15 seconds left.
Again fouling, Chicago sent Granger to the line, and he sank them both to give Chicago the ball, down by three, with what looked to be the last possession of the game. The Bulls got a good look, with Deng kicking out a pass to Boozer along the left wing, but the big man was unable to sink the shot -- par for the course on a day when the Bulls shot 3-of-20 from deep.
Boozer has a good jump shot, but he hadn't attempted a 3-pointer since December 2007. His only successful 3-pointer in nine NBA seasons came in December 2003 with the Cavaliers.
On the whole, it's disappointing Chicago couldn't close it out today, but it shouldn't be surprising. Truth be told, the Pacers have come close a few times already this series -- they have led every game by at least five points in the fourth quarter -- and as was noted a few times in the regular season, the Bulls can tend to play in a hole for most of the game before furiously digging themselves out of it.
Yes, unfortunately the loss snaps a 12-game winning streak for Chicago, their best of the year, but expect better from Rose & Co. on Tuesday at home.